Trump’s anti-Semitic tweet directed at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton means that GOP officials must once again reconcile their support for him with his history of embracing bigotry. Republican leaders have avoided discussing it so far, though House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) broke the silence on Tuesday to condemn the tweet.
It’s unusual to see so many party leaders and high-profile Republicans struggle openly with their opinion of the presumptive nominee. The biggest crack in his foundation of Republican support came when the reality star said that an American judge of Mexican descent would be biased against him in court. Trump also touted that the Orlando nightclub shooting last month justified his proposed ban on Muslims entering the country.
Here’s a rundown of some notable Republicans who’ve stuck by Trump despite faulting him for intolerant statements and behavior.
The Kentucky senator and majority leader in May declared that he would support Trump against Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee. But that doesn't mean he thinks Trump is suited to be president.
Appearing on ABC's "This Week" on June 26, McConnell twice declined to answer if he thought Trump was qualified for the job.
“Look, that will be up to the American people to decide,” McConnell said. “He won the Republican nomination fair and square. He got more votes than anybody else against a whole lot of well-qualified candidates. So our primary voters have made their decision as to who they want to be the nominee. The American people will be able to make that decision in the fall.”
Earlier in June, McConnell left open the possibility that he'd withdraw his support for Trump when asked what would cause him to rescind his endorsement. “I’m not going to speculate about what he might say or what I might do. But I think it’s pretty clear. I’ve been very clear publicly about how I think he ought to change directions, and I hope that’s what we’re going to see," McConnell said, according to The New York Times.
The House speaker hesitantly bestowed his endorsement on Trump, showing how Ryan has had a tortuous relationship with the presumptive Republican nominee. Ryan has repeatedly rebuked him for offensive positions throughout the campaign, yet Ryan’s also reaffirmed that Trump has his vote in November.
On Tuesday, Ryan once again admonished Trump, this time for the tweet featuring a Star of David with the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever” next to a picture of Clinton against a backdrop of $100 bills.
“I really believe he’s got to clean up the way his [social] media works,” Ryan said on Wisconsin radio station WTMJ. “He’s got to clean this up.”
Ryan leveled some of his sharpest criticism after Trump repeatedly said that U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel should recuse himself from a lawsuit involving Trump University, because the judge’s Mexican heritage would unfairly influence decisions against Trump.
“Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” Ryan said. “I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable.” Moments later, however, Ryan reiterated his support for Trump.
That follows previous incidents when Ryan called out Trump for appearing to condone violence against protesters at his rallies and for not immediately disavowing support from a former Ku Klux Klan leader. Through it all, though, Ryan hasn’t reneged on his support.
The former House speaker has endorsed Trump, has been an adviser to him and has openly discussed the possibility that he'd run alongside Trump as the party's vice presidential candidate.
Gingrich might join Trump on the ticket even though he's criticized the real estate developer over his comments about Curiel.
“It was one of the worst mistakes Trump has made. Inexcusable,” Gingrich said on Fox News, though he didn't call it an example of racism.
Remember Trump dubbing him "Little Marco" and Rubio's quip about the front-runner's "small hands"? Well, the Florida senator eventually came to offer Trump his support despite the high levels of personal animosity between the two during the primaries and caucuses.
Yet Rubio, who's now seeking re-election as a senator, said in June that while he did not want Clinton in the White House, his support for Trump comes with serious reservations.
"The prospect of a Trump presidency is also worrisome to me," Rubio said, according to Business Insider. "It is no secret that I have significant disagreements with Donald Trump. His positions on many key issues are still unknown. And some of his statements, especially about women and minorities, I find not just offensive but unacceptable."
With Clinton likely to secure the Democratic nomination, Rubio and other Republicans find it convenient to tepidly stick with Trump.
The retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate is perhaps unique because he's criticized Trump as a member of his inner circle. Carson has been one of Trump's most vocal supporters since endorsing him in March, but in June he publicly connected the comments about Curiel to a "moral descent."
"Every human being is an individual first rather than a member of an identity group. The moment we forget that is the moment we enter into a phase of moral descent," Carson said in a statement to Politico.
Trump has privately admitted the attacks on Curiel were a mistake, according to Carson.
The former vice president was an early critic of Trump's proposed ban on Muslim immigrants.
"I think this whole notion that somehow we can just say no more Muslims, just ban a whole religion, goes against everything we stand for and believe in," Cheney said in a radio interview in December, according to The Week.
Nonetheless, Cheney said he'd support Trump as he has for all past Republican nominees, CNN reported.
The Arkansas senator, considered a rising star in the party, appeared at war with himself on "Meet the Press" on Sunday over his support for Trump. The foreign policy wonk had previously announced that he'd support the eventual Republican nominee, but Cotton struggled to make a case in favor of Trump.
"Donald Trump can ultimately make the case for himself,"Cotton said to host Chuck Todd.
Cotton also rallied to the defense of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) after Trump insulted him for being captured during the Vietnam War, according to The Atlantic.
Haley, South Carolina's governor, is indirectly linked to Trump because she's said that she would support the Republican nominee, though she didn't mention him by name.
After that lukewarm acceptance of Trump, Haley has criticized his rhetorical style for encouraging violence. She's said she must denounce such language, because she fears hateful words can spur violent acts.
"I know what that rhetoric can do. I saw it happen," Haley said in June.
As governor, she dealt with the mass killing of nine parishioners by a white gunman in a historic black church in Charleston last year, in what is suspected to be a racially motivated attack.
Like Haley, this New Hampshire senator couldn't bring herself to actually mention Trump's name while declaring her support for him.
With a tough re-election ahead of her in a swing state, Ayotte hasn't wanted to appear too close to Trump. In June, she joined the chorus in her party that denounced Trump's comments about Curiel. Months earlier, she also criticized his proposed ban on Muslim immigration.
“I do not believe that there should be a religious test in terms of how we decide who’s coming to our country," Ayotte said, according to New Hampshire Public Radio. "There needs to be a factual, risk-based assessment. We’ve not had a religious test for this and that certainly seems inconsistent with the First Amendment to me.”
Editor's note: Donald Trump
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